A daily plan, a five-year plan, a crisis plan. Is it all too much to even contemplate? How can I think about a life plan when I can barely keep my head above water just getting through the day?
If you’re “surfing” your moods on a regular basis, planning is essential. Bipolar is a roller coaster and it’s a lot of work to manage a life with bipolar shifting you around every day. But many, many people tell us: the plan is what makes it possible to move ahead. I’m the master of my life, not my illness. And to keep it that way, I need to use planning processes.
A daily plan
If just getting through the day is a stretch, a written plan will help. It’s a life preserver in choppy waters, a foundation under the walls I’m putting up. Write it down. Really, it will help. Write down everything that has to be done each day and the right time for each thing to be done. Then when you get off track, you have a written plan to refer to that will tell you where you need to be and what you need to do there – you don’t have to think of that yourself!
A mood plan
This one is for yourself and also your close household, family and other associates. How do you handle yourself when you fall into a depression? How do you handle yourself when you feel a manic episode coming on? What do you want your partner, parents, children to do when bipolar starts tossing you around? Having clear steps and clear instructions will give peace of mind to your loved ones and to yourself as well. By being aware of how your moods take you, you can choose a quiet moment to reflect on what steps need to be taken at what times, and let others know when you may need help in keeping to the plan.
A crisis prevention plan
If you need to travel, or if there’s a special project of some kind at work that may lead to higher stress levels, it’s a good idea to have a crisis prevention plan as well. What if I lose my medication while traveling in a foreign country? What if wildfires or a hurricane overtake my home? What if I have a boss with bad anger management skills who shouts at me? Whatever might happen could happen, and if you have a plan for dealing with these rare and potentially dangerous occurrences you have a better chance of coming out the other side intact.
Life with a chronic illness is all about planning
It’s not fair, but with chronic bipolar or major depression, you have to work harder than other people just to keep life on an even keel. Writing up a series of plans can help you feel more secure, and keep you from having to remember everything at some of life’s worst moments. Julie Fast, in her blog Bipolar Happens, writes about the experience of having “a big, freaking bucket of depression dump itself on my head”. But having suffered with bipolar and depression for more than twenty years, she knows that it will pass, and that her plan for dealing with it works every time. Stability sometimes feels like it’s way beyond reach, but it’s not. These short, practical actions give you handholds in the storm. Try it today!